Slave Code of Virginia...cont.



More of the slave code of Virginia as recorded in Blake's, History of Slavery.

At a session of the Virginia legislature, in December, 1662, an act was passed, being the first statute of Virginia which attempts to give a legislative basis to the system of hereditary slavery. It was enacted that children should be held bond or free "according to the condition of the mother."

Brutal Whipping of a Slave on a Plantation, from an Eyewitness Account in Virginia

Brutal Whipping of a Slave on a Plantation, from an Eyewitness Account in Virginia
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In 1667, the assembly of slave code of Virginia enacted that negroes, though converted and baptized, should not thereby become free. At the same session, in remarkable deviation from the English law, it was also enacted, that killing slaves by extremity of correction should not be esteemed felony, "since it can not be presumed that prepense malice should induce any man to destroy his own estate." the prohibition against holding Indians as slaves was also relaxed as to those brought in by water, a new law having enacted "that all servants, not being Christians, imported by shipping, shall be slaves for life." About this period, and afterward, a considerable number of Indian slaves seem to have been imported into Virginia and New England from the West Indies and the Spanish main.

Slave Family on the Auction Block in Virginia, 1800s

Slave Family on the Auction Block in Virginia, 1800s
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As a necessary pendent to the slave code of Virginia, the system now also began of subjecting freed slaves to civil disabilities. It had already been enacted that female servants employed in field labor should be rated and taxed as tithable. Negro women, though free, were now subjected to the same tax. Free negroes and Indians were also disqualified to purchase or hold white servants.

Slave Pens, Where Slaves Were Held, in Alexandria, Virginia

Slave Pens, Where Slaves Were Held, in Alexandria, Virginia
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Some replies of Berkeley to a series of questions submitted to him by the plantation committee of the privy council, give quite a distinct picture of the colony as it was in 1671. The population is estimated at 40,000, including 2,000 "black slaves," and 6,000 "Christian servants," of whom about 1,500 were imported yearly, principally English. Since the exclusion of Dutch vessels by the acts of navigation, the importation of negroes had been very limited; not above two or three ship loads had arrived in seven years. The English trade to Africa, a monopoly in the hands of the Royal African Company, does not seem to have been prosecuted with much spirit; and such supply of slaves as that company furnished was chiefly engrossed by Jamaica and other sugar colonies.

Dealer Inspecting a Young Black Slave at a Slave Auction in Virginia, c.1860

Dealer Inspecting a Young Black Slave at a Slave Auction in Virginia, c.1860
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In 1682 the slave code of Virginia received some additions. Slaves were prohibited to carry arms, offensive or defensive, or to go off the plantations of their masters without a written pass, or to lift a hand against a Christian even in self-defense. Runaways who refused to be apprehended might be lawfully killed. the condition of slavery was imposed upon all servants, whether negroes, Moors, mulattoes, or Indians, brought into the colony by sea or land, whether converted to Christianity or not, provided they were not of Christian parentage or country, or Turks or Moors in amity with his majesty. An unsuccessful attempt was made in the council, whether dictated by humanity, by policy, or by a wish to promote the interests of the Royal African company, to reenact the old law prohibiting the enslavement of Indians.

Slaves Preparing Tobacco, Virginia, America, circa 1790, from "Le Costume Ancien Et Moderne"

Slaves Preparing Tobacco, Virginia, America, circa 1790, from "Le Costume Ancien Et Moderne"
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In Virginia, in 1692, individual runaway slaves seem at times to have made themselves formidable.

The slave rules of Virginia for suppressing outlying slaves, contains the first provision to be found in the Virginia laws on the subject of the inter-mixture of the races.

Plantation Owner's Family Visiting Slave Quarters in Colonial Virginia, 1700s

Plantation Owner's Family Visiting Slave Quarters in Colonial Virginia, 1700s
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By humane provision of this slave code of Virginia, slaves are made real estate, and thus, as it were, attached to the soil. Nor can it be said that the sold object was to shield them from seizure for debt -- they remained liable to that as before. They were also to descend like personal property, but provision was made by which the heir of the plantation could buy out the inherited interest of others in the slaves. Such continued to be the law so long as Virginia remained a British colony.

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